Smooth muscle myosin heavy chain exclusively marks the smooth muscle lineage during mouse embryogenesis

Joseph M. Miano, Peter Cserjesi, Keith L. Ligon, Muthu Periasamy, Eric N. Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

332 Scopus citations


We cloned a portion of the mouse smooth muscle myosin heavy chain (SM- MHC) cDNA and analyzed its mRNA expression in adult tissues, several cell lines, and developing mouse embryos to determine the suitability of the SM- MHC promoter as a tool for identifying smooth muscle-specific transcription factors and to define the spatial and temporal pattern of smooth muscle differentiation during mouse development. RNase protection assays showed SM- MHC mRNA in adult aorta, intestine, lung, stomach, and uterus, with little or no signal in brain, heart, kidney, liver, skeletal muscle, spleen, and testes. From an analysis of 14 different cell lines, including endothelial cells, fibroblasts, and rhabdomyosarcomas, we failed to detect any SM-MHC mRNA; all of the cell lines induced to differentiate also showed no detectable SM-MHC. In situ hybridization of staged mouse embryos first revealed SM-MHC transcripts in the early developing aorta at 10.5 days post coitum (dpc). No hybridization signal was demonstrated beyond the aorta and its arches until 12.5 to 13.5 dpc, when SM-MHC mRNA appeared in smooth muscle cells (SMCs) of the developing gut and lungs as well as peripheral blood vessels. By 17.5 dpc, SM-MHC transcripts had accumulated in esophagus, bladder, and ureters. Except for blood vessels, no SM-MHC transcripts were ever observed in developing brain, heart, or skeletal muscle. These results indicate that smooth muscle myogenesis begins by 10.5 days of embryonic development in the mouse and establish SM-MHC as a highly specific marker for the SMC lineage. The SM-MHC promoter should therefore serve as a useful model for defining the mechanisms that govern SMC transcription during development and disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)803-812
Number of pages10
JournalCirculation research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • development
  • mouse
  • myogenesis
  • myosin heavy chain
  • smooth muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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